Blokus Strategy

At our house, the kids play Legos for hours. Annabelle (8) and Josh (6) will spend hours building towers as high as they are. Isaac (4) can’t compete with the older kids. Sometimes he ends up knocking over their towers because of it.

There are two different intrinsic needs happening here. The desire to create; then second, the desire to feel in control. These two needs affect your Blokus strategy. The game is called Blokus, so you are naturally going to want to be a Blocker, and knock down opponents towers, but a straight blocking strategy will impede your own ability to create as a Builder.

Are you a Builder or a Blocker? To win this game, you need to be both. Here is the strategy.

  1. Get out quickly
  2. Play your 5 tiles first
  3. Share space (Builder Strategy)
  4. Block conservatively (Blocker Strategy)
  5. Watch closely

Get out quickly

Get into the middle, and into other peoples areas quickly. After playing a few times, this will be natural. You may be tempted to stay close to home. DON’T DO IT.

Play your 5 tiles first

My wife, Mallory, pointed this out to me, but if you don’t play your 5 tiles first, you end up running out of space for them later.

Builder vs Blocker

Blokus works best if you play as a builder. You do this by playing pieces so that your corner and the opponents corners are touching, allowing you both to play off of the connection. As you can see below.
img_0022You may be thinking, but the game is called Blokus, shouldn’t I be trying to block?

You are thinking like a Blocker. There is certainly a place for that in this game, but often when you Block. Not only do you anger the Builder you are playing with, but you also leave yourself open for another block.

Suppose you are yellow, and it is your turn. What do you play? There are three good options.



Option 1. Good (Blocking only) It is pretty satisfying to block them completely, but it leaves you open for a bad follow-up block.


Option 2.  Better (Building Only) This leaves you open for more moves. There is no possible way for them to completely block you on that side.


Option 3. Best (Building and Blocking) Not only do you block them on many points, you also leave yourself open to get into their area. This satisfies the desire to create, and the desire to dominate. (We call that piece the clobberer, because it works so nicely.)


General game play

Once you decide to mostly act as a builder, the game will go much more smoothly for you. you will always have an opening, and won’t often get trapped early on.

Later in the game, space gets limiting. Look around and match your pieces with spaces. If you have a space completely open and no one can take it. Don’t play there until later. Target areas that are contested to ensure that your tiles are played where you planned them.

And if possible, save your 1 piece for as long as possible. There is nothing worse than getting to the end and losing because your wife saved her 1 piece. Let that be a lesson to you.

Thanks for reading, do you have any other Blokus strategies that have worked well? Any Blockers out there that are successful?

Settlers of Catan Strategy

Settlers of Catan brought strategy gaming back into popularity. Before Settlers game out, the same games had been played for years. This game is so fun. I like to call it the Harry Potter of board games. Have you ever noticed how after the success of Harry Potter, a lot more great young adult fantasy books started popping up everywhere? The same works in the Board Game world. This game was so popular, that it made board games main stream again.

The strategy is pretty complex because it really depends on how the board is set up, your turn placement, who you are playing with, and how other people choose to play. This is one of the great things about the game, but makes it more difficult to write a succinct strategy. Instead, I’ll give some good guidelines on how I try to play.

  1. Get Stone and Wheat in your first placement
  2. Build Cities quickly
  3. Trade often
  4. Play the robber evenly
  5. Hide your lead until the end
  6. End the game quickly

Stone, Wheat, and Cities

Obviously, it is best to have your settlements on the highest rolling spaces. Don’t disregard that plan, but if possible, play on Stone and Wheat. The purpose of this is to build Cities as fast as possible. It really puts you at an advantage to have Cities right from the start. It takes the least amount of resources to give you the most payout quickly.

After the Cities are up, it also allows you to pull development cards to plan for Step 5 and 6.

Trade often

This game is all about trading. If you have the constrained resource, be willing to trade it with anyone, but make sure that they give you at least two, and maybe 3 for it. Be generous by saying things like. “I’ll give it to you for wood (the one you want) and any other resource. That gives them the choice, but still nets you more cards.

The only time to be stingy with trading is when someone has an obvious lead. At that point, under no circumstances are you to trade with them. They, or you, are on their own at that point.

It may also be nice if you get a 2 for 1 port. You can convince people to give you 2 of that one, plus a free card to get something back for them.

Play the robber evenly

People have this innate reaction if they feel that they have been slighted. If you consistently place the robber on the same person, they end up having a knee jerk reaction to play it back on you. Sometimes they won’t even trade with you!

To get around this, play the robber on the spot that covers the most people, or bounce it around each time. Say something like, “I played it on A last time, so I’ll put it here this time.”

As long as it is fair, retribution can be minimized.

Hide your lead

If you are too far ahead, you become “that guy” and no one trades with you any longer. They also start stealing your cards with the robber. To avoid this, stay just ahead of people. the development cards really help with this.

Often you’ll pull the Soldier cards. Use these to get yourself out of a bad robber situation, and save one or two to sneak and get the largest army points.

Other times you’ll get the extra roads card. Use this towards the end to steal the longest road.

Sometimes you will even pull the free victory point cards. Great day! Hold these to the end to cross the 10 point finish line.

When you have 6 visible points, now is the time to plot how you are going to win, by getting the longest road, army, or laying your victory point cards. Everyone will look around confused, as you complete your path to victory

What other strategies have worked well for you?

Also, since it is Friday…



Gaming with children

My church is launching a Light the World program for the month of December. The idea is to serve in 25 ways over 25 days during the month of December. In following that theme, I encourage you to serve a child by playing a game with them.

Think back on your childhood. Where did your love of playing games come from? It probably started with your parents playing with you. If not them, was it a sibling or a friend that introduced you to board games?

My dad often played games with us, but I remember the first time I ever got to attend one of his real game nights. A bunch of the youth from church came over to play an intense game of Risk. I had played once or twice before, but never a serious game. I went into the game pretty nervous.

My dad was my partner, and he guided me through the play. I wasn’t the first one eliminated, but I definitely didn’t win. This was a great memory. If I was going to be like all those wise teenagers, I would have to learn how to play games well.

This leads me to the strategy for playing with children, regardless of the game. Your purpose as the adult is to help guide them through the game process in such a way that the following things occur:

  1. They learn how to play
  2. They feel loved by spending time with you.
  3. They have fun.
  4. They gain a love for board games.

Notice how I didn’t say anything about you winning? Of course you can beat them in games. You are the dad, and they know you are awesome. The important thing here is raising children that will want to play games with you when they are older and can actually beat you. Here are a few strategies that help without letting them win. (No one wants to realize that they only won because you weren’t trying.)

  1. Change the rules to give them an advantage.
  2. Play on their team against another sibling.
  3. Play games that are mostly luck.
  4. Stack the deck against you.

Change the rules

When I was growing up, we had the Stoker Olympics (situps, pushups, stepups). We made the competition fair by giving the younger kids a handicap. It ended up being a competition of who improved most. This is what you do with games.

Some games lend themselves well to changing the rules. You could let them draw two cards instead of 1. You can let them roll twice and take the better of two roles. You can give them extra money, or let them see your cards, but don’t look at theirs.

The options here are limitless, and it allows them to know that you are trying your hardest, but giving them a slight advantage.

Team play

Being a kids teammate is great for meeting three of the four criteria, but some kids don’t feel like they have as much fun when you are coaching them along. Watch for this. If this is happening in your family, it may be time for you to back out and just let them play.

Play luck games

Some of the best games for kids have no skill at all. These are perfect for kids because they can legitimately win! Candyland is one of my kids favorites. It is pretty painful to play. “You are just moving along, and then you draw plumpy”. We adapted it so that you never have to go backwards. If you draw plumpy, your character goes back and has a “snack”, then moves right back to where they were. This really helps everyone to have fun.

Stack the deck

Sometimes you just have to stack the deck. It is actually quite fun to try to win after setting up your children to get most of the good cards. You can even play up the discrepancy by saying things like, “Awe man, I got the 2 again. That’s the 3rd time in a row!” They love it. and laugh and laugh.

Your competition of tomorrow are your children today. So play a game with a child, and make it great.

Please comment and let me know how it went.